I’m a thirteen year old living in Seattle and I built my own kayak. It is a skin-on-frame F1 designed by Brian Schultz of Cape Falcon Kayak and I made it in our driveway. In the beginning, I was skeptical I could build a boat but it wasn’t as hard as I thought.
Before I made the kayak I already had some woodworking skills. For example, over the last year or two I built a horse jump with my friend, rustic cedar planter boxes with my school and wooden marlin spikes for nautical ropework. I made the Greenland kayak paddle before the kayak, which gave me practice with the hand plane and motivation for my kayak project.
At the beginning of the kayak build, I spent two to three hours in our local lumber store, Limback Lumber, picking out the perfect pieces of wood. For the gunwales I needed straight grain, clear (no knots), cedar boards. In Brian’s videos, he explains that the grain on the edge of the board needs to be straight without running off the edges, otherwise the gunwales might split. My dad and I took out every single board that was the right size and laid them down scrutinizing each one.
The collection of cedar boards started to look like a boat once I put the capture forms on the ends of the gunwales and the spreaders in between. When I steamed the ribs and lashed on the keel and stringers, the 2D shape became a 3D frame. When I sewed the skin (ballistic nylon), the frame transformed into a hull which was one of my favorite steps. The whole kayak project took me two weeks of full time work. Although my dad gave me advice and showed me how to use the power tools, I did all the steps myself.
One of the trickiest steps was making the coaming. It was hard to bend the bamboo into the right shape after it came out of the steamer and to manage the Gorilla glue and clamps while being careful not to snap the bamboo.
The most emotionally challenging part for me was color. Clear polyurethane protects and waterproofs the skin. To color it, I added burnt sienna and burnt umber powder pigment. But I couldn’t know what the final color would be until three coats were on the kayak. It took will power to smear on the goop, especially because the first coat looked pink but the picture in my mind was red cedar. At first I didn’t like the color. But then I realized that my kayak is the exact color of Madrona bark, and now after paddling my kayak and taking it on adventures, the color doesn’t feel so important to me any more.
At the end of my kayak project, my family and I camped and kayaked for six days in the San Juan Islands. We started at San Juan County Park on the west coast of San Juan Island and paddled to Posey, Stuart, and Jones islands, in total around 40 miles including day trips.
During the summer of Covid 19, I enjoyed getting up in the morning and having a project to work on until six in the evening. The kayak project gave each day a larger purpose.